Head in the Clouds: Jack McBrayer and the Creators of ‘The Great North’ Share the Origin Story of Last Night’s Unforgettable ‘Sky Penis’

‘I saw my penis in the sky, and it spoke unto me’
Head in the Clouds: Jack McBrayer and the Creators of ‘The Great North’ Share the Origin Story of Last Night’s Unforgettable ‘Sky Penis’

On last night’s episode of The Great North, the Tobin family patriarch, Beef Tobin, had a revelation: He needed to get laid. Usually, advice like that would come from a good friend, but for Beef, it was more of the near-death variety. 

As he fished in the ice-cold Alaskan waters, he fell into the ocean and immediately began losing feeling in his body. Suddenly, the clouds started to form the somewhat lumpy shape of a flaccid penis — with arms no less. Then, it spoke with the folksy, familiar voice of Jack McBrayer, who told him this was Beef’s penis talking and that, ever since his wife left, he’s not been making enough use of him.

While still staying within the bounds of what’s allowed at 9 p.m. on network televisionThe Great North’s “Sky Penis” was hilariously designed. And with McBrayer’s voice giving it life, it was definitely memorable, too. Here to explain how this otherworldly johnson sprung to attention is the show’s co-creators Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux, supervising director Will Strode and, of course, the man behind the Sky Penis — Jack McBrayer.

How did the Sky Penis originate?

Wendy Molyneux, co-creator of The Great NorthWe had this idea that we wanted Beef to get back out there, finally. It’s been four seasons, and he hasn’t really had a girlfriend or dated. We started with him finally getting over his ex-wife in the pilot, so we knew we needed him to get back out there, but he’s so shy and reserved that we knew it had to be something literally huge. We started working on “What’s the metaphor that pushes Beef over the edge?” Then we thought, what if, essentially, his member came to life and, even if, consciously, he doesn’t think he wants this, some part of his body is saying, “Would you please?”

Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin, co-creator of The Great NorthThe earliest idea was just Beef having a one-night stand, but it was hard to think of how he would let himself get there. It felt like it would take this momentous push, something almost otherworldly.

And how did you decide that Jack McBrayer was the voice?

Molyneux: I’ve known Jack a long time, and I know he’s made of clouds. No, we always want to use Jack for everything, and he was our first casting idea for this. Nick Offerman as Beef speaks so carefully and is so measured, so we saw this part of him as so different — with this testicular energy. And when you think of testicular energy, there’s only one name that comes to mind in Hollywood. 

Jack McBrayer, voice of the Sky Penis: Boom. You’ve seen my tattoos.

Molyneux: When Jack rode up on his motorcycle to record, we knew we made the right decision.

Jack, what did you think when you were asked to play the Sky Penis?

McBrayer: You know, I’ve done weirder, if you can believe it. Also, if it’s comedy friends of yours who ask you to participate in any project, I would say 98 times out of 100, I’m going to say “yes.”

Molyneux: Jack, have you played a lot of other penises, and were you just exhausted when you got the call?

McBrayer: I just don’t want to get typecast, is all. I mean, I did play Nick Kroll’s pubic hair in Big Mouth, so I’m no stranger to the nether regions.

Was there anything special you did to get into character for this one?

McBrayer: Yes. It’s gross though, it’s not fit for publications. Just look for it on my OnlyFans — or OnlyFan, singular. 

So, I understand that something happened after the table read. Can we talk about that?

Molyneux-Logelin: For all the table reads we do via Zoom, we send a Zoom background with your character name on it.

McBrayer: They sent this JPEG file to me, and I’m a computer idiot. So just before the table read, somebody walked me through how to make it my background. It worked for the table read; then, a week and a half later, I’m supposed to have this Zoom meeting with this female director I’ve never worked with before. I show up, and it says “Beef’s Penis” right behind my head. I was mortified. She thought it was a joke, but I was afraid I would get fired! In conclusion, I haven’t worked since.

Why was Beef’s penis named “Cindy”?

Molyneux: We wanted to steer away from an uber-masculine notion of this, even though that’s where a lot of people would go with it. Beef is on this journey, but it could be a man’s journey or a woman’s journey or a non-binary person’s journey of “You’re holding yourself back from experiencing the world in a physical way, so here’s part of your body saying, ‘Would you please?’” So it was fun to pick out a name for it almost out of a hat. 

On the development side, how did the look of the Sky Penis evolve?

McBrayer: Standards and Practices.

Will Strode, supervising director of The Great NorthYes, actually, Standards and Practices is the long and short of it. 

Molyneux-Logelin: I’ll let Will speak to how it evolved, but the goal was to have it somewhat resemble a penis. We’re aware, though, that we’re on network TV on Sunday nights, so you can’t be too explicit. It was a bit of a journey of “How close can you get?” And also what’s funny and what’s going to look magical in the sky.

Molyneux: How many versions do you think we did, Will?

Strode: Probably around 20. I will say, the first chunk of the design was people texting me random pictures of clouds that looked like penises for a good week and a half straight. I still have a collection of random, phallic clouds on my phone.

In the initial stages, we were talking about more of an abstract cloud. Then we tried out a pile of clouds, but Standards didn’t like that. Then we tried an even more abstract version. Finally, we realized we need to give this more of a character, especially with Jack’s voice, so we went back into redeveloping it and did version after version with questions like, “How tall is it?,” “How chunky?,” “How flaccid?,” “How much of a face should it have?,” “How should the arms look?,” “Is it buff?,” “How muscular should this penis be?” and “Does this part flop around?” 

We finally landed on the idea that it should be pretty dumb-looking because, you know, it’s a penis.

Molyneux: The funny thing about it was, Standards and Practices would send back these notes saying “This looks too realistic.” But all these versions had arms. What are you looking at on a day-to-day basis that this looks real? I’m terrified to know that this person has potentially only seen them with arms. They’ve had a run of bad luck and have only met people with penises with arms and eyes and that can talk. I’m just worried for them, honestly.

McBrayer: You’re all gross. I’m praying for your souls.


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